Seventy percent of the first field that competed in the series were SpeedMerchants entries.
Braselton, Ga., (April 30, 2013)- Jim Hoddinott is simply a people person. Because of this personality trait he has successfully built a racing empire with SpeedMerchants Motorsports, and has dominated the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin series since its first season in 2011.
The prestige of the International Motor Sport Association (IMSA), and the interest from Porsche Canada were enticing enough for Hoddinott to turn his funds, and his interest to the new series.
"The GT3 Cup Challenge Canada is a spectacular series," said Hoddinott, who drives the No. 59 entry for SpeedMerchants. "You get to rub elbows and network with some of the best professional drivers out there. It allows you to improve your abilities."
Improving driving ability and having fun is what the SpeedMerchants owner is all about both on, and off the track. And he applies these strong core values to his daily management practices for the team as well.
"In Canada, not to say the U.S. doesn't have this, but it's all about the camaraderie," Hoddinott said. "We can all join in the paddocks for a barbeque and then really race each other hard on the track. This isn't everyone's day job so we have got to have fun while doing it."
Even when his helmet is on, Hoddinott still puts the team's interests above his own ambitions.
"I find it very hard to take off my owner's hat," he said. "Even when I'm on track I'll radio in to my guys and say, 'OK where is everyone in the field, please give me a rundown of our cars.' I'm a pretty good driver, but I'm a really good owner."
Thanks to smart ownership, SpeedMerchants Motorsports has a reputation of being an industry leader. In his early days of racing, Hoddinott took special note of what other teams did best. He then emulated those teams and their practices, and added on a place in the paddocks to relax and wine and dine sponsors.
"I want the team to feel comfortable and cared for," Hoddinott said. "I have a great chef on payroll, I have driving coaches on payroll, and an amazing team of mechanics."
In addition to bringing him championships, Hoddinott's mechanics have earned a reputation for preparing top-notch cars. Over the course of two years, the team has had only one mechanical issue force a car into early retirement.
SpeedMerchants Motorsports has also created a niche as a team that fosters driver growth and development. In 2013 Hoddinott will bring David Ostella, a young Canadian driver, to the team driving the lucky No. 13, 2013 911 GT3 Cup car.
"David is a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve," Hoddinott said. "You won't meet a nicer guy, and he isn't an ego maniac like most guys his age with his talent," Hoddinott said. "I immediately liked him when I met him, and that is important. He's raced against the best and beat the best but you really have to make sure everyone can get along."
SpeedMerchants has also successfully prepped drivers for competition abroad.
Driver Christian Chia has spent time in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia last year and obtained two podium finishes. Hoddinott expects to see him on a few more podiums this year in Canada with his No. 69 SpeedMerchants entry.
"As a team owner, you cherish a driver that brings these skills to a team," Hoddinott said. "Christian drives and conducts himself like one of the pros. His preparation, focus and methodical approach are something we seldom see in a gentleman driver."
The talented drivers and staff Hoddinott employs are only one piece of the championship equation. The fans that attend the GT3 Cup Challenge Canada events are an added element that continues to drive Hoddinott to continually improve his program.
"The impact of racing in front of the fans was the biggest surprise," Hoddinott said. "When you're racing around an empty stadium you might find yourself thinking, 'Why am I doing this?' It is a great thrill and honor to be racing where we do with all the fans."
It is from the youngest fans that Hoddinott finds his meaning as a driver. They give him his racing inspiration, regardless of if he is involved in a race incident, or lifting a championship trophy.
"I had a little seven or eight-year-old boy come up to me after I crashed once," Hoddinott recalls. "He told me everything that he saw. It was then that I remembered that I was there racing for him. The young fans are the ones that will carry on this great sport."
The fans, the thrill, and the challenge of ownership bring the SpeedMerchants founder to the sport. Hoddinott sums his racing experience up simply, "Sure there is the thrill of the competition but it's really about the fact that I made great friends that I can share a passion with. That is what's really important."
Jim Hoddinott and the SpeedMerchants team kick off the GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin season May 17-19 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the Castrol Presents Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend.